Julie Mehretu Unveils the Last Two Decades of Her Career at the Whitney Museum

Julie Mehretu is set to present her life’s work at the Whitney Museum of American Art from March 25 through to August 8, 2021. The loosely-chronological installation is expected to feature approximately 30 paintings and 40 works on paper, all pieces dating back from 1996 to the present day.

Born in 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and currently based in New York City, Mehretu’s work greatly reflects her perspective on the history of art and human civilization. Her work covers a breadth of artistic practices and medium and genre explorations and art aficionados will be able to explore in-depth Meretu’s intricate use of abstraction, architecture, scale and technique, most prevalent in both intimate and large complex drawings, and various forms of printmaking.

The Whitney Museum calls this particular exhibition a mid-career survey. Julie Mehretu will be the first-ever comprehensive survey of Mehrehtu’s career, curated by Christine Y. Kim of LACMA, with Whitney’s own assistant curator, Rujeko Hockley. Those who find themselves perusing through the installation will notice that Mehretu’s paintings are an abstract visual education of diverse cultural references, ranging from European history paintings to symbolic depictions of African liberation movements.

Mehretu deconstructs the social and political ideals of colonialism, capitalism and global uprising through carefully curated artistic intents in her abstract, landscape and figuration work. Mehretu is mindful of the current news and social issues and Hockley explains that, “She often uses art as a means to frame social uprisings, including the Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter, and Occupy Wall Street, as well as specific events like the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; wildfires in California; and the burning of Rohingya villages in Myanmar.”

Throughout the exhibit, attendees will be able to experience Mehretu’s growth as an artist, starting from the mid-1990s when she began developing her narrative of the migrating masses through unique characters in her drawings and paintings to her work in the early 2000s, where she embraced working with paint to create large, complex visuals to reflect the dense and diverse metropolis. In the 2010s, audiences will notice a shift in Mehretu’s visual language, moving away from the rigid lines of architecture towards more intimate representations that included soft, distorted blurs and smudges, and sometimes even the artist’s own palm prints.

“At its core, her art is invested in our lived experiences, examining how forces such as migration, capitalism, and climate change impact human populations—and possibilities. We look forward to bringing her brilliant explorations to Whitney audiences,” said Hockley. This most recent exhibition is a culmination of the artist’s past and present works, all of which are reflective of the social narratives at the time of the piece’s inception. This exhibition will take viewers through a mindful journey of how realities of the past and present can shape human consciousness.

The exhibit, spanning over the entire fifth-floor gallery, is set to open to the public at the Whitney Museum of American Art between March 25 to August 8, 2021. Those interested can reserve their tickets online at Whitney Museum of American Art.

Whitney Museum of American Art
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